June 16, 2024

Vita Nectar

Health is the main investment in life

Dentists warn of decay from sugary drinks

2 min read

Dentists have extracted up to 20 baby teeth from children as young as two due to severe tooth decay caused by sugary drinks, an expert has warned.

Dr Catherine Gallagher, vice-president of the Irish Dental Council and working at Cork University Dental School, called for easier access to public dentists to reduce tooth decay and improve parents’ knowledge.

The number of HSE dentists dropped by 23% between 2006 and 2022, the Irish Dental Association also told the Oireachtas Health Committee.

Dr Gallagher said the Cork hospital has 350 children on waiting lists for extraction under general anaesthetic.

“I’m talking about very small children needing multiple teeth taken out,” she told TDs and senators.

“I routinely take out 20 teeth for two-year old children. Those are the ones who’ve actually managed to grow that many teeth. You have clearances of teeth in small children — small, small children.” 

Speaking to the Irish Examiner afterwards, she described this as extremely distressing for children.

“I have treated two-year-olds who are barely two and not old enough to have all 20 teeth, they have only 16, but I’ve taken out all 16 of those teeth,” she said.

“I’ve taken out 20 teeth from children who were two or three years old.” 

It means the child is without teeth until their adult ones start growing at around the age of six, she warned.

“Obviously, taking 20 teeth out for a two-year-old is as bad as you can possibly get,” she said.

“I have absolutely done that several times. We routinely take out eight, nine, 10, 12 teeth for five, six, seven, eight-year-olds.” 

Dr Gallagher, who is a lecturer and specialist in oral surgery and Vice Dean Chair of Clinical Affairs at the UCC dental school, said sugar causes dental decay.

Babies sleeping with bottles of honey-sweetened milk or other drinks are particularly vulnerable to this painful condition.

“The child is there all night long bathing their teeth in sugar. And we see what’s known in the textbooks as ‘bottle caries’ because of this habit of keeping the liquid in the bottle or the sippy cup,” she said.

Nursing bottle caries describes tooth decay while a child is sleeping.

She called for more education for new parents, saying “pretty much all decay is actually preventable.” 

The Department of Health said an additional €15m was allocated to dental care in the Budget, including €4.75m for development of prevention-focused oral healthcare for children under seven.


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